Tag Archives: google.org

Google.org Fellows bring transparency to local jail data nationwide

In recent years, we’ve seen a bipartisan focus on criminal justice reform in the U.S., but to measure progress—and understand the breadth of the issue—we need data on who is being incarcerated and why. The last nationwide jail census was conducted in 2013, and the federal government’s most recent estimate of the U.S. jail population is from 2017. Because it takes so long to get up-to-date information on jail populations, Vera--an organization working to improve justice systems--started a project to collect the data themselves. 

In Our Backyards looks at jail population data from state and local government websites to understand who’s behind bars simply because they can’t afford bail, or who’s being charged with a non-criminal offense like unpaid child support. As part of our work using data science and technology to help solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges, Google.org contributed to the project with a $4 million grant. Additionally, 12 Google.org Fellows spent six months doing full-time pro-bono work on the project. 

Today, Vera released the results of this project: People In Jails in 2019. We learned that while the U.S. has made strides in prison reform, rural jail occupancy is actually on the rise. Cities like Chicago, New York and Philadelphia are reducing jail populations, but over the last several years, rural counties and smaller cities have sent more people to jail, driving an increase in the nation’s total jail population. 

 I sat down with Google.org Fellow, Aria Ashton, who participated in the Fellowship with Vera.


What exactly did your team set out to achieve during the Fellowship with Vera?

Our goal was to support Vera in building a nationwide jail monitoring and alerting system that shines a light on local justice systems in the United States. The ambition was to get a full picture of how many people are in county jails in near real-time, and for what reasons. Compiling this kind of data allows Vera to derive data-based insights about how county jails are being used. For example, in one county, 50 percent of the jailed population was incarcerated with bond amounts under $500. If we presume that these are individuals who would otherwise be free but cannot afford a $500 bail amount, does this mean that half of the beds in this particular jail are low-level offenders below the poverty line? 

What motivated you to spend six months working full-time with Vera on this Fellowship project?

My brother spent a lot of his life incarcerated. He’d always been troubled with mental illness which led to drug dependency. If it weren’t for these two factors, my brother wouldn’t have been incarcerated at all. One year, after spending six years in a correctional facility in California, he was released to a halfway house where he eventually succumbed to his addiction and died. At this point I began to wonder, “How many brothers and sisters, how many mothers and fathers are cycling in and out of the system because they can’t find proper treatment for mental health and addiction issues?” Using jails and prisons to address mental illness and addiction is unfortunately widespread, and I hope our work with Vera will put an end to these practices.

Aria

Aria with her brother.

What do you want the world to know about the Vera project?

Society is losing so much because of the lack of visibility into the use of county jails. I hope that when the data is shared, and personal stories are told, everyone gets a sense that this is a black box and someone needs to shine a light on it. There are so many people who are lost in this system. Even though Vera understands this world holistically, they couldn’t get an accurate picture of the jail population through existing data.

How did Google help move this ambitious project along? 

First, we had a ton of technical expertise on our Google.org Fellowship team—engineering resources can go a long way toward developing a technical solution like this. Second, we hadn’t been in this space for as long as Vera, so we brought a fresh perspective. We didn’t have the same assumptions, so we were able to question approaches and offer new solutions.

What surprised you about the Fellowship experience and this project in particular?

When you think about the millions of people who go in and out of jails, inevitably you start to wonder what their stories might be. Many have lost their jobs, can’t pay bills, and no longer have access to their children. Immersing ourselves with Vera and this project drove home that this system has a real human cost.Many corporations are trying to raise awareness about  social justice issues, but awareness doesn’t always translate into action or advance a cause. This Fellowship is a “put your money where your mouth is” program. I hope the Google.org Fellowship can inspire more corporations to do the same.

What did you learn from the Fellowship experience and how have you applied that to your life?

First, I’m proud of the work the Fellowship team did. I’ll have that with me for the rest of my life. Working on something that really matters made me become the most efficient and effective version of myself. Second, I met a lot of people who are involved in criminal justice reform and learned about the ways advocates are trying to change the system. I realized the importance of my voice as a person who hasn’t been incarcerated but has been directly impacted by the dysfunction of the system. By raising my voice, I can perhaps help policymakers and ordinary citizens understand how much suffering this system causes. As a result of the contacts I made doing this kind of work, I am taking part in restorative justice events in prisons, so that I can do as much as I can to drive change and hopefully save other families from bleak futures, punctuated by tragedies.

Thanking all first responders

Growing up, my next door neighbor was a Boston firefighter. Like many kids, I was inspired by heroic portrayals of firefighters battling flames and carrying people to safety. What affected me most, however, was watching my neighbor leave his house every morning, prepared to help those in need. This dedication to helping others stuck with me.

It’s been twenty years since I first joined the fire department, and I’ve served as an on-call firefighter ever since. I’ve worked alongside EMTs, police officers, and community volunteers who on a daily basis are answering the call for help. While the newsworthy crises are part of the job, it’s also the less recognized, everyday moments—from replacing batteries in an elderly resident's smoke alarm to calming a child after an allergic reaction—that are essential elements of this work.

Today we’re recognizing our nation’s first responders for all the ways they dedicate their lives to helping others. A challenging, but often unrecognized, aspect of this work is the preparation required ahead of potential disasters. Therefore, Google.org is giving a $1 million grant to Team Rubiconto build out teams of volunteers, most of them military veterans, who will work alongside first responders to build out disaster preparedness operations.

Jake Wood, co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon, explains the impact of this grant: "This funding enables us to build disaster preparedness in cities across the U.S. so we can mobilize to help others on their worst day. This includes everything from training in critical skill sets such as damage assessment, roof-tarping and chainsaw operations to incident command and leadership development—all so we can better serve our communities and neighbors affected by disaster."

Investing in preparedness is a key priority for Google.org as studies have shown that for every $1 spent on preparedness, approximately $6 are saved in the post-disaster recovery. Through this Team Rubicon grant and Google’s continued Crisis Responseefforts, we aim to support the work of first responders and the strength of their communities.

The work of Team Rubicon is close to my heart. Some of my closest friends and colleagues have been volunteering with them for many years and I’m grateful to be a part of supporting the incredible work they’re doing. Working within the first responder community has been one of the most meaningful aspects of my life. I continue to be inspired by the everyday selflessness of those I get the chance to work with. On behalf of Google, I want to say “thank you first responders for your daily dedication to help.”

Media literacy for Asia’s next generation

When I served as U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, it often struck me that young people there had vastly more access to news and information than I did when I first lived in that country 20 years earlier—a sign of how things can change for the better from generation to generation.  


The internet has enabled people in Vietnam and across Asia Pacific to learn, connect and express themselves in ways we couldn’t have imagined in the past. We need to keep expanding those opportunities, but we also need to help the next generation explore the internet with confidence as they come online.


As Google marks UNESCO Global Media and Information Literacy Week, we’re building on our efforts to promote media literacy and combat misinformation. We’re constantly working to make a difference with our own products, like improving our algorithms to prioritize authoritative sourcesand original reporting in search results. At the same time, through a $10 million Google News Initiative media literacy campaign funded by Google.org, we’re supporting expert organizations across the region as they develop new approaches for teaching media literacy. 


In Southeast Asia, this includes programs run by the Indonesian Anti-Slander Society and the Child and Youth Media Institute in Thailand to create video teaching tools for local schools, building on a pilot program we developed with the University of Hong Kong. And today we took the next step, announcing that Google.org will support a new initiative run by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication in the Philippines. The funding will enable the AIJC to hold “school summits” across the country, training 300 high school teachers so they can teach media literacy to around 9,000 students each year—helping them tell the difference between misinformation and reliable news online.


We asked Ramon Tuazon, President of the AIJC, to tell us a bit more.  


In 2017, the Philippines became the first country in Asia to make media and information literacy (MIL) part of its high school curriculum. Why is this so important?  


When we first started discussing adding MIL to the curriculum in 2013, we knew we had to address misrepresentation and propaganda in traditional media as well as social media. But we also had to deal with the new challenges the internet has created, including the fact that young people are becoming media literate online before they learn ethics and responsibility in how to use technology.  


With the new campaign, what do you hope students and teachers get out of the experience? 

I hope the students gain new perspectives and better understand how to verify news, deal with their biases and be sensitive to misinformation and disinformation. For teachers, I hope the training helps them learn new, creative and engaging teaching approaches.  Over the long term, I hope both teachers and students will be able to go out and challenge misinformation on social media and other platforms.  

What’s next after this initial campaign? 

We’ll be working closely with the Department of Education to continue improving how we teach media and information literacy as part of the curriculum, including through new tools and better teacher training.  Our challenge is to expand this new initiative nationwide.

Let’s build the way to a better Bay

Back in 2015, the Hidden Genius Project received a $500,000 Google.org grant to provide training and mentorship to young black men in the Bay Area. The grant went toward expanding their computer science bootcamp, and to break down the barriers that prevent many young black men from getting into the tech industry. Hidden Genius Project was a winner of our second Bay Area Impact Challenge, and they're now serving 1,500 students a year, up from 300 when they applied to the Challenge. Today, we’re kicking off our third and largest Challenge so we can support other Bay Area nonprofits as they work to improve our local communities.


In total, we’ll donate $10 million in grants to 35 nonprofits dedicated to making the Bay Area a place where everyone can thrive. From now until November 8, organizations across the Bay Area are invited to submit their proposals. The  boldest, brightest and most impactful ideas will be selected as finalists. Once the finalists are announced, we’ll come together as a community for a public vote on the People’s Choice Award. The winner will receive a $1 million grant from Google.org. And our panel of judges will select four other top submissions to each receive $1 million in funding.
bay area impact challenge judges-01.jpg

For over 20 years, we’ve partnered closely with nonprofits, supporting those who are on the frontlines of addressing the Bay Area’s most pressing needs. Since 2014, we’ve given $250 million in grants to nonprofits and we recently made a $1 billion commitment to help address the shortage of affordable housing options in the Bay Area.  


There are so many nonprofits making an impact across the Bay Area—tell us about your work, and submit your proposal by November 8.  

How we’re helping small businesses succeed

Owning a small business often means wearing many hats, and I know this firsthand. When I started my winery, I found I was not only a winemaker but also an accountant, marketer, sales person and tech support provider all at once. There was never enough time! Now that I’m at Google, I apply the lessons I learned every day as our team works to build products and solutions designed to meet the needs of small businesses.

Starting a small business can be a pathway to economic prosperity for both business owners and their communities. In fact, 67 cents out of every dollar spent at a local business stays in the local economy. Through our products like Search and Google Ads and Grow with Google, our initiative to create economic opportunity across the U.S., we’re committed to helping small businesses succeed. Being online is the way to win. Today we are releasing a new report that shows how Americans are searching for local businesses, and I can tell you that there is tremendous momentum. In fact, we’ve seen 350 times more search interest in "local" + "near me" than there was 10 years ago. 

To deepen our commitment to small businesses, Google.org is making a $10 million pledge to help low-income and underrepresented entrepreneurs start new businesses via access to training and capital.

Almost half of all libraries in the U.S. provide assistance to entrepreneurs looking to start a business of their own. That’s why the first grant will benefit the American Library Association (ALA) to support entrepreneurship centers at 10 libraries and to help libraries across the U.S. develop new offerings for small business owners. The grant will also support the ALA’s efforts to develop a guide for libraries on building their own entrepreneurship programs, including recommendations for better serving entrepreneurs from diverse communities and underrepresented backgrounds. This grant builds on our ongoing support for libraries, including the $1 million in funding that Grow with Google gave ALA earlier this year to help libraries across the U.S. provide communities with digital skills. The collaboration has already supported 130 libraries across 18 states and will continue to all 50 states. We are proud to be continuing our work with this important organization.

Google.org’s $10 million pledge is not the only way we’re investing in the success of American small businesses. In June, we introduced Google for Small Business - a website that offers free personalized plans for small businesses so they know which Google tools will help them reach more customers and work more efficiently. 

This work is important to me, both in my role at Google and as a former small business owner. Today, I’m back in my hometown of Dallas, Texas to share this news and to see some of Texas’s finest small business owners in action.

As a Googler, Texas native, woman and former small business owner, I am so proud to work alongside entrepreneurs and help American small businesses find new success in the 21st century. 

Take a look at our report below to check out how people across the U.S. are searching for small businesses.

Small Business Infographic

Google.org helps Nesta bring skills training to trade unions

Throughout history, technology has changed the nature of work. This has created new opportunities and jobs, but there are also concerns about technology’s impact on job security and displacement. Google.org’s $2 million grant to Nesta, a global innovation foundation, will set up partnerships with trade unions in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. The program will provide training to workers whose jobs are changing rapidly as a result of automation or digitalization—for example, people working in administrative roles, manufacturing and the service industry. 


Nesta will deliver training through a new program called FutureFit, which will help workers get the skills they need to adapt to changes in their workplace. Using training methods such as nano learning—where trainings are broken down into small chunks—and gamification, the program will shed light on learner behavior and motivation. This evidence will be used to inform future training.


While research from McKinsey shows that automation can actually increase the total number of jobs in the countries covered by this project, a recent poll showed that 40 percent of the Swedish workforce worries about not getting access to the training they need to compete in the future job market. And the OECD found that people in jobs most at risk from automation do less training than workers in jobs at low risk. 


The Nordics and Benelux countries are the perfect places to try Nesta’s techniques and build on Google.org’s engagement with nonprofits to equip people with the skills needed for the future labor market. The countries in the region are digital frontrunners, and have a tradition of investing in lifelong learning. We know this from Google initiatives we’ve introduced to the region: In Sweden, we toured the country with the national Swedish Public Employment Service to train thousands of people in digital skills. In the Netherlands, we worked with the trade union CNV to re-skill workers in transport and logistics. And in Denmark, we teamed up with the major trade union HK to educate administrative workers as “digital change agents.” Across Europe, we’ve now trained five million people in new skills. Since May 2018, we’ve also been building on the Digital Frontrunners program from Nesta, a collaborative program to help senior policymakers create a more inclusive digital economy.


In Finland, Nesta will run a pilot program with The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), Finland’s largest labour confederation. The program will focus on helping workers whose professions are undergoing high rates of change due to technology, such as administrative roles or manufacturing. SAK President Jarkko Eloranta put it this way: “A third of employees in Finland find modern technology a source of anxiety at work, so learning opportunities of this kind should be part of regular duties at all workplaces. Employees need new digital skills to embrace smart technology at work.”


We’re committed to providing one hundred million EUR in grants in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the next five years to better understand the changing nature of work, and to support nonprofits that help people navigate a changing labour market. The Nesta program will be a great addition to that effort, and we hope the grant will help to ensure that workers are equipped with the skills needed to support them in changes to their everyday work lives.

Bringing online safety training to Irish schools with Barnardos

As a parent, I know how challenging it is to keep up with everything that your children are doing on their laptops, tablets and mobile phones every day. It’s more important than ever that we learn about issues like cyberbullying and the effects of children spending a lot of time online. At Google, we’re finding ways to help children make smart choices and protect themselves online, and helping parents find the right balance for their families.

Today, at an event in Dublin with Ireland’s Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, TD, our CEO, Sundar Pichai, unveiled a €1 million Google.org grant for online safety training with Irish children’s NGO Barnardos. The grant will help Barnardos bring it’s Online Safety Programme workshops to more than 75,000 Irish children over the next four years.

Barnardos Online Safety Programme provides interactive classes for children and young people, teachers, parents and professionals on internet safety and cyberbullying. One of the goals is to promote ongoing communication between children and adults on these topics.

We’ve also created an online resource for parents, children and teachers called Be Internet Legends, which is now available to everyone in Ireland. The program provides teaching resources, family guides and interactive online games, all focused on the five fundamentals of an Internet Legend: being sharp, alert, secure, kind and brave.

We recognize our responsibility as a company to ensure that the internet is accessible and  used in a positive way. Through this program and the rollout of Be Internet Legends, we intend to make the internet a safer place for young people in Ireland and around the world.


2,602 uses of AI for social good, and what we learned from them

For the past few years, we’ve applied core Google AI research and engineering to projects with positive societal impact, including forecasting floods, protecting whales and predicting famine. Artificial intelligence has incredible potential to address big social, humanitarian and environmental problems, but in order to achieve this potential, it needs to be accessible to organizations already making strides in these areas. So, the Google AI Impact Challenge, which kicked off in October 2018, was our open call to organizations around the world to submit their ideas for how they could use AI to help address societal challenges.


Accelerating Insights from the Google AI Impact Challenge” sheds light on the range of organizations using AI to address big problems. It also identifies several trends around the opportunities and challenges related to using AI for social good. Here are some of the things  we learned—check out the report for more details.


AI is globally relevant 

We received 2,602 applications from six continents and 119 countries, with projects addressing a wide range of issue areas, from education to the environment. Some of the applicants had experience with AI, but 55 percent of not-for-profit organizations and 40 percent of for-profit social enterprises reported no prior experience with AI. 


Goog


Similar projects can benefit from shared resources

When we reviewed all the applications, we saw that many people are trying to tackle the same problems and are even using the same approaches to do so. For example, we received more than 30 applications proposing to use AI to identify and manage agricultural pests. The report includes a list of common project submissions, which will hopefully encourage people to collaborate and share resources with others working to solve similar problems.  


You don’t need to be an expert to use AI for social good

AI is becoming more accessible as new machine learning libraries and other open-source tools, such as Tensorflow and ML Kit, reduce the technical expertise required to implement AI. Organizations no longer need someone with a deep background in AI, and they don’t have to start from scratch. More than 70 percent of submissions, across all sectors and organization types, used existing AI frameworks to tackle their proposed challenge. 


Successful projects combine technical ability with sector expertise 

Few organizations had both the social sector and AI technical expertise to successfully design and implement their projects from start to finish. The most comprehensive applications established partnerships between nonprofits with deep sector expertise, and academic institutions or technology companies with technical experience.


ML isn’t the only answer 

Some problems can be addressed by using alternative methods to AI—and result in faster, simpler and cheaper execution. For example, several organizations proposed using machine learning to match underserved populations to legal knowledge and tools. While AI could be helpful, similar results could be achieved through a well-designed website. While we’ve seen the impact AI can have in solving big problems, you shouldn’t rule out more simple approaches as well. 


Global momentum around AI for social good is growing—and many organizations are already using AI to address a wide array of societal challenges. As more social sector organizations recognize AI’s potential, we all have a role to play in supporting their work for a better world. 


New tools to help Spanish speakers build their careers

Spanish is my first language, and it’s what I spoke with my family growing up in Costa Rica. Even today, after making the U.S. my home for more than two decades, it’s the language my brain thinks in. So I understand well the challenges of living in a country where the spoken language is your second language, or even completely new to you. Especially for those trying to get ahead—taking classes, learning new skills, finding work—it can be really hard.

That’s why I’m thrilled that today, through Grow with Google, our initiative to create economic opportunity for everyone, we’re making new resources available to help Spanish speakers learn skills they need to prepare for a job or grow a business in today’s economy.

For example, our Applied Digital Skills curriculum helps learners develop crucial digital skills to thrive in the workplace through free, video-based lessons. We also offer minicourses in Spanish for local businesses and job seekers on our free Google Primer app, which teaches business and digital marketing skills through short and easy interactive lessons. Our IT Support Professional Certificate, which is designed to prepare beginners for entry-level IT support jobs in as little as six months, will be available in Spanish starting September 16. These resources and more can be accessed at grow.google/espanol

Skills like these help people thrive in today's jobs. According to Brookings, nearly two thirds of all new jobs created since 2010 required either high or medium-level digital skills. 

The Latino community makes up 16 percent of the U.S. labor market and will make up half of the people entering the workforce by 2025. Latino nonprofits are key resources for educating and training community members. Google.org is making a grant to the Hispanic Federation to launch an accelerator to strengthen institutions serving the Latino community with workforce development and digital training programs. Through this grant, the Hispanic Federation will enhance the capacity of 20 Latino-led and Latino-serving nonprofit organizations, which in turn will provide career-aligned digital skills training to more than 10,000 Latinos over the next two years. This builds on our ongoing commitment to the Latino community, which includes a $5 million grant announced earlier this year to bring computer science education to over one million Latino students and their families by 2022. 

The LULAC Institute will integrate Applied Digital Skills and Primer into their programming, to bring digital skills training in Spanish to more than 60 local technology centers around the country. Community organizations across the U.S. can also apply to join the Grow with Google Partner Program, to access bilingual resources and trainers that help community members learn essential skills like creating a resume or growing a business through digital marketing.

I’m proud that the company I work for is helping provide more opportunities for Spanish speakers to grow their skills all across the U.S.


El español es mi primer idioma, y es el que utilice con mi familia, mientras crecía en Costa Rica. Aún ahora, después de que los Estados Unidos se convirtió en mi hogar, durante más de dos décadas, es el idioma en el que mi cerebro piensa en la mañana. Así que entiendo las dificultades de vivir en un país donde el idioma hablado es tu segundo idioma. Especialmente para aquellos que quieren salir adelante—tomar clases, aprender nuevas habilidades, encontrar trabajo—puede ser muy difícil.

Por eso estoy emocionada que hoy, por medio de Grow with Google, nuestra iniciativa para crear oportunidades económicas para todos, estamos proporcionando  nuevos recursos a los hispanohablantes, para aprender las habilidades que necesitan, prepararse para un trabajo, o hacer negocios en la economía digital.

Por ejemplo, nuestro plan de estudios,Habilidades Digitales Aplicadas, ayuda a desarrollar habilidades digitales cruciales para prosperar en el trabajo, por medio de lecciones gratuitas basadas en video. También ofrecemos mini cursos en español para pequeños negocios y personas buscando trabajo en nuestra aplicación gratuitaGoogle Primer, que enseña habilidades comerciales y de marketing digital, a través de breves lecciones interactivas y fáciles.  NuestroCertificado Profesional de Soporte de TI, está diseñado para preparar a principiantes para trabajos de nivel de entrada de TI, en solo seis meses, y estará disponible en español a partir del 16 de septiembre. Se puede acceder a estos recursos y más en grow.google/espanol.

Habilidades como estas, ayudan a las personas a prosperar en los trabajos actuales. De acuerdo conBrookings, casi dos tercios de todos los nuevos empleos, creados desde 2010, requieren habilidades digitales de nivel alto o medio.

La comunidad latina representa el16 por ciento del mercado laboral de los Estados Unidos, y será la mitad de los trabajadores que ingresen a la fuerza laboral para 2025. Las organizaciones latinas, sin fines de lucro,  son instrumentos clave para educar y capacitar a los miembros de la comunidad. Es por eso que Google.org está otorgando una donación a la Federación Hispana (Hispanic Federation), para lanzar un acelerador que fortalezca las instituciones que sirven a la comunidad latina, con programas para el desarrollo y capacitación digital de la fuerza laboral. Con esta donación, la Federación Hispana acelerará la capacidad de 20 organizaciones sin fines de lucro, dirigidas a los  latinos que, a su vez, proporcionarán capacitación en habilidades digitales a más de 10,000 personas durante los próximos dos años. Esto aumenta nuestro compromiso con la comunidad latina, e incluye una donación de$5 millones de dólares, anunciada a principios de este año, para brindar educación en ciencias de la computación a más de un millón de estudiantes y familias latinas para el 2022.

ElInstituto LULAC integrará lasHabilidades Digitales Aplicadas yPrimer en su programación, para brindar capacitación en español a más de 60 centros de tecnología comunitarios en todo el país. Organizaciones comunitarias en los Estados Unidos también pueden solicitar unirse al programaGrow with Google Partner Program para tener acceso a recursos, así como entrenadores bilingües, que ayudan al aprendizaje comunitario de  habilidades y destrezas esenciales, como crear un currículum o hacer crecer un negocio a través del marketing digital.

Me siento orgullosa de que la compañía, para la cual trabajo, esté ayudando a brindar más oportunidades de crecimiento para los hispanohablantes en los Estados Unidos.

Tackling cardiovascular disease with AI

Westmead team with Google’s Mel Silva and Australian Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Hon Karen Andrews MP


Heart disease and cardiovascular health are a major challenge around the world, and in Australia, one in six people is affected by cardiovascular disease. The University of Sydney’s Westmead Applied Research Centre is working on a digital health program for people at risk of cardiovascular disease, and they recently received a $1 million Google.org grant that will help them apply AI to give patients more personalised advice and support.  

We sat down with Professor Clara Chow, Professor of Medicine and Academic Director at Westmead Applied Research Centre, and Dr. Harry Klimis, a cardiologist and Westmead PhD student, to hear more about the program.   

Why is cardiac health such a big issue? 

Professor Chow: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of premature death and disability worldwide. In Australia, cardiovascular disease affects approximately 4.2 million people, has resulted in more than 1 million hospitalizations, and caused 1 in 3 deaths in 2016. That’s one death every 12 minutes, and these deaths are largely preventable.

How are you proposing to address this problem? 

Chow: Our goal is to support people at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease by encouraging them to adopt healthy habits, such as diet and exercise, and connecting them to health services when they need them. Data and mobile technology means we can do this in ways that weren’t possible before. 

Dr Klimis: We’ve already developed mobile health text-message programs using basic algorithms to customise programs to individuals. We now plan to use machine learning and AI to keep improving how we support participants and help them self-monitor measures like cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, physical activity, diet and smoking.

How will you use the funding and support from Google.org? 

Chow: The grant will help us create digital tools that enable clinicians and health services to provide personalized advice without the need to meet face to face. Initially, we’ll link data from existing secondary sources like hospital and clinic presentations to create programs tailored to individuals, and the system will learn from there. 

How does AI help?  

Klimis: An example would be if “John” went to the emergency room at hospital with chest pain and had type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension. After being assessed and treated, he could be flagged as a patient at high risk of heart attack and added to the mobile health prevention program. The AI program would learn from John’s activities and deliver health advice via SMS or through an app. If John was less active at a particular time of day, the program might register this and prompt him to take a 5-minute walk. 

What do you think is going to be the most challenging part of your project?

Klimis: Making sure we have reliable enough data to support a program capable of AI and machine learning. Our original program sent out standard text messages to over 3000 people, which allowed us—with their permission—to collect data on their characteristics, how they respond to different messages, and how this affects health outcomes. That data will be crucial in building an AI model for the current project.  

What are you most optimistic about?

Chow: We have the potential to help more people at risk of cardiovascular disease by giving them high-quality prevention programs developed by clinicians and researchers, without requiring frequent clinic or hospital visits. Over the long term, mobile and digital health solutions could reduce hospitalizations, bring down healthcare costs, and make healthcare more accessible.